When Kevin McClory teamed up with the Eon company to make the movie Thunderball in 1965 he was contractually obliged not to exercise his rights to the James Bond character for ten years, Sure enough in 1975 McClory started pitching a 007 script titled Warhead to all the competing studios, but it wasn't until 1983 that Never Say Never Again actually made it to the silver screen opening opposite the lame Roger Moore vehicle Octopussy. Never Say Never Again (a title suggested by Sean Connery's wife) has on display a variation of the plot that McClory had produced almost 20 years earlier.
Faced with not being able to include the iconic familiar gun-barrel sequence at the beginning of their 1983 Bond movie, Taliafilm (named after the wife of the producer and Rocky actress Talia Shire) had to cone up with their own graphic image. What they decided upon gives the first clue that we are about to experience something different, a breath of fresh air and a good kick up the rear end to a series of movies that had become stale through resorting to self-parody and recycled dialogue and villainy.
Yes, [NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN is a retelling of the THUNDERBALL storylines worked out between Fleming, Bryce, Whittingham and McClory. It's technically speaking not a remake of the 1954 picture though, but a different version of the story using characters that appeared in the earlier drafts (such as Fatima Blush).
And from the moment the screen fills up with all those 007's and the audience is drawn in, we know right away that Connery is back and better than ever, and looking much fitter than he did in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.
The title song has been attacked by 007 fans over the years, but I actually like it quite a lot (in direct comparison with the rest of the admittedly rather tame soundtrack). I have found myself over the past 20 years humming it to myself (sometimes at the most inopportune moments) and so it has obviously become seared into my consciousness as only a catchy tune can.
And here we come to what is the 1983 movie's pretitle sequence. But instead of interrupting the flow of the story with yet more images of nude women and silly fluorescent effects the titles play out for the action allowing the audience to immediately find its feet and settle into the pace of this thrilling picture.
Of course it's not the first time that we have seen Bond killed off in the opening minutes. We saw it first at the hands of Red Grant in 1963's FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE and then again just four years later in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. Here Bond is on a training mission and for those with keen eyes its really quite obvious (no muzzle fore from 007's gun). As such it works a little better in the little details, and when 007 rescues the leggy millionaires daughter held captive she plunges a knife into him.
It is at this point that the factor of a new M really pays off. We see Edward Fox sternly watching the exercise on tape. We see another unidentified character (presumably Tanner). Its not until the very last minute that Connery's 007 is revealed - alive and well.
Following on from a dressing down from M is one of my favorite sequences in the movie - namely Shrublands. It's a favorite of mine because we really get introduced to my favorite character in the movie Fatima Blush. The 1965 movie has Fiona Volpe, but Volpe lacked the super-charged charisma, biting wit and ego-maniacal psychotic nature that Barbara Carrera simply oozes as Blush.
Look at the tenderness she shows to Jack, followed immediately by her bashing his head against the wall. Witness her dispatching of Jack and then crooning over her pet snake, and who can forget her final confrontation with 007 - "guess where you get the first one."
Carrera steals every scene she is in. She dances on her way to kill Bonds French ally and like a black widow spider she seduces 007 and then attempts to kill him with a device to attract a special group of sharks attached to his air tanks.
The second highlight is the appearance of Indiana Jones alum Pat Roach as Count Lippe. Who cannot appreciate and revel in the fun fight in which Roach's Lippe plays the indestructible Jaws role, minus the embarrassing buffoonery that Richard Kiel brought to the EON franchise. Bond throws everything at Lippe to no avail and then in an amusing conclusion the character is blinded by Bond's urine falling back into a collection of glass cylinders and test tubes.
Connery's reaction is classic.
In an attempt perhaps to counter the familiarity of the group of has-been actors inhabiting the SIS offices in the EON series at the time, this Connery movie has the most impressive list of actors to inhabit any Bond movie. In addition to the already mentioned Connery, Fox, Carrera and Roach we also have the incredible Klaus Maria Brandeur as Largo, the revered Max Von Sydow and Bernie Casey as a black Felix Leiter (hey, why not?!).
Brandeur plays Largo with just the right amount of understated menace and Casey is probably the second best Leiter of the series (after Hedison). You really get the feeling that he and Connery's 007 are the best of buddies, their interactions and playful barbs appear genuinely affectionate and respectful of the other,
The one A-list actor who really lets down the rest of the team is Kim Basinger. She admittedly didn't have much to go on, but it is in this one respect that Claudine Auger and the 1965 EON effort takes the honors.
Some have said that it is with Bonds arrival in Nassau, that this movie tends to wander a little. I respectfully disagree. It is here that the majority of Carrera's scenes appear and here that Connery has his first confrontation with Largo. I have yet to really understand the computer game the two play, but it works nicely in building up some real tension and suspense (name a Moore 007 -villain scene that achieved the same level of pent up pressure - I can't). The final line from Connery - " I wouldn't know, I've never lost" is also probably one of the best 007 comebacks in the entire series.
Yes, this section of the movie also features some of the best dialogue, the promise of which had been ably shown in the brilliant Q-scene earlier in the picture. The lines come thick and fast and are genuinely witty in comparison with some of the gags in the Moore series of pictures. In addition Rowan Atkinson nicely doesn't outstay his welcome as comic relief and his "don't know his mother" line always makes me smile. Other gags that work include the cigarette lighter gag at the casino and the "your place or mine" bomb at the hotel.
The ending in Africa is over a little too soon and the small battle in the underground caverns lacks the scope of some of the 007 pictures. But I think it works well in the context of the rest of the picture and is not the confusing, overlong mess that really mars the 1965 effort. Its cleaner and tighter, just the way I like it.
Yes, even though Roger Moore is my favorite 007 actor, "Never Say Never Again" is my favorite 007 picture.
Irvin Kershner, who directed the best of the Star Wars movies, again brings us a franchises crowning achievement with a steady directing hand, incredible witty dialogue, superb performances by an amazing cast and Sean Connery returning revitalized after a 12 year absence from the role that made him famous.
It's the one 007 movie that I have watched more than any other.
After the movie was obtained by MGM-UA (the company that produces the EON production) there was talk among fans as to the possibility of the gun barrel sequence being added to make it part of the "canon", I for one do not think that this unique James Bond 007 movie should be tampered with in that manner.